Disney Gains Full Control of Hulu Following Deal With Comcast

Disney has slowly been acquiring a larger stake in Hulu, most recently thanks to its acquisition of certain assets owned by 20th Century Fox. According to Variety, today Disney has "full operational control" of Hulu thanks to a new deal with Comcast.

The deal's terms state that Comcast will retain its 33 percent ownership interest in Hulu through January 2024, after which time either side can demand that the sale of Comcast's Hulu stake go through.


Comcast's NBCUniversal division will continue to license content to Hulu through late 2024. However, the deal includes a few stipulations: as soon as 2020, NBCUniversal will have the right to pull programming that was previously exclusive to Hulu, and by 2022 NBCUniversal will be able to cancel most of its content-licensing agreements with Hulu.

Like most other companies, NBCUniversal has plans to launch its own streaming service within the next few years. The Comcast/Disney deal today includes an arrangement where NBCUniversal will be able to keep its shows on Hulu on a nonexclusive basis (with a reduced licensing fee), while also streaming them on its new service.

As it stands, Hulu today is a platform with content from a wide array of content providers, which upload episodes of TV shows as early as the day after they air on cable. In the past, Disney has said that it plans to keep Hulu as it is and focus its own properties on the Disney+ streaming service. According to CEO Bob Iger, Disney's full ownership of Hulu will create an "even more compelling" service.
“We are now able to completely integrate Hulu into our direct-to-consumer business and leverage the full power of The Walt Disney Company’s brands and creative engines to make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers,” Disney chairman/CEO Bob Iger said in a statement about the pact.
For its main streaming service, Disney has announced that Disney+ will launch this November for $6.99 per month. It will include exclusive original series like "The Mandalorian," and various TV shows based on Marvel and Pixar properties.


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Spotify Premium Now Includes Hulu’s Ad-Supported Plan at No Extra Cost

Following a collection of student-related bundles, Spotify today announced that Spotify Premium will now include a free subscription to Hulu With Limited Commercials at no extra cost, for all users in the United States. The bundle is launching today and is open for sign-ups by Spotify Premium customers in the U.S. through June 10, 2019 (via The Verge).


Hulu With Limited Commercials recently lowered in price to just $5.99/month, but now Spotify Premium users will gain access to the video streaming service for free, as long as they stay subscribed to Spotify. This means that for $9.99/month, these users will be able to listen to all of the music on offer at Spotify, as well as stream the ad-supported version of Hulu.

To start saving, new Spotify Premium users can sign up for a 30-day free trial now and activate Hulu on the "Your Services" page in account settings. Those who already have Spotify Premium with Hulu, the company will automatically switch these users over from a $12.99/month price to the new $9.99/month price.

Lastly, those who already have a Hulu account but not Spotify will have to cancel their billing through Hulu and switch it over to Spotify. All Hulu plans connected to Spotify for this offer can not have any extras added onto it, so premium channels like HBO aren't allowed.

For the student bundles, Spotify and Hulu last August updated their offer by including Showtime. This means that eligible college students can get a Spotify Premium subscription ($9.99/month), Hulu With Limited Commercials subscription ($5.99/month), and a Showtime subscription ($10.99/month) for $4.99 per month total.

Tags: Spotify, Hulu

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Disney in Talks to Acquire WarnerMedia’s 10% Stake in Hulu, Resulting in 70% Ownership After Fox Acquisition

Disney is in active discussions with AT&T in an effort to acquire the 10 percent ownership stake that WarnerMedia has in Hulu, according to a report by Variety. Disney already owns a 30 percent stake in Hulu, and is soon to gain Fox's 30 percent stake once regulatory approvals for the Disney/20th Century Fox acquisition go through.


This means that if Disney does end up with both AT&T and Fox's stakes, it will own a 70 percent majority of the Hulu streaming service. The last remaining company with a stake is Comcast/NBCUniversal, and in a statement last month NBCU CEO Steve Burke said that "Disney would like to buy us out...I don't think anything's going to happen in the near term."

At this point, it's believed that even with a 70 percent control of Hulu, Disney would leave the platform as it is, focused on general entertainment with TV shows and films for subscribers to watch. In contrast, the upcoming Disney+ streaming service will be the platform where customers can get Disney-focused content in a more family-friendly environment.

For AT&T, the company is said to be looking to sell its minority stake in Hulu as it prepares to launch its own streaming service in late 2019. This service will be divided into three tiers: "one focused on movies; one with movies plus original programming; and a third tier comprising content from the first two along with WarnerMedia library content and licensed programming."

Apple's own entry into the streaming service market will happen soon, as the company plans to introduce its TV service at an event on March 25. While we will likely gain a lot of information about the service at that time, it's not expected to launch until the summer or fall of 2019.

Tags: AT&T, Disney, Hulu

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Hulu’s New ‘Pause Ad’ Experience Coming Q2 2019, Will Not Play Audio/Video Every Time You Pause

Last month, Hulu began talking about a new form of advertising it had in the works that it called "pause ads." At the time, the company said it tested numerous versions of the format, but they all boiled down to showing subscribers some form of advertising every time they hit pause on a video in Hulu.


The final version of pause ads has now been decided, and they'll begin rolling out in the second quarter of 2019. When they do, pause ads will not play video or audio when you pause a show or movie in Hulu, but instead they will showcase static images with taglines from various brands.
Just as consumers’ viewing habits have evolved, their expectations for advertising have also changed. Viewers no longer accept an irrelevant, intrusive ad experience and appreciate when brands tell their stories in authentic and integrated ways. To stand out and continue engaging their target audiences, brands must rise to the challenge and flex their creative muscles to go beyond the traditional commercial break.

Enter Hulu’s new Pause Ad, which provides a non-intrusive, viewer-initiated ad experience that is both delighting to viewers and effective for brands.
Hulu says pause ads will be "contextually relevant" and have background gradients that change to distinguish the ad from the paused scene. The company calls the ads "non-disruptive", and the final form was decided upon after extensive user testing found that consumers preferred ads that don't play extensive audio and video when pausing movies and TV shows.

The first two brands to debut with pause ads will be Charmin and Coca-Cola. When pause ads roll out they will appear within "select content" in Hulu's streaming library, presumably for those subscribed to Hulu With Limited Commercials. In today's press release, an example of a pause ad is shown in the Hulu Original show Marvel's Runaways, so it appears that even Hulu's own original content will have the new ads.

Tag: Hulu

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Hulu Drops Price of Ad-Supported Service to $5.99/Month, but Raises Live TV Price

Hulu today announced a revised pricing structure, which will see it cutting the cost of its base streaming tier just days after Netflix announced a price hike.

Hulu's base service, which offers access to more than 85,000 episodes of on-demand television and thousands of movies, is now priced at $5.99 per month, down from $7.99 per month. Hulu's base tier is ad supported, so subscribers do need to watch a limited number of ads.


Hulu's ad-free plan continues to offer the same content at the same price, $11.99, with no pricing cuts enacted for that plan.

The Hulu+ Live TV service is getting more expensive with Hulu now charging $44.99 per month, up from $39.99 per month. Hulu Live TV is Hulu's live television service, offering the same on-demand content along with access to 60 live sports, news, and entertainment channels.

The new pricing changes will go into effect on February 26 for new subscribers, while existing subscribers will see the pricing changes enabled in the subsequent billing cycle after February 26.

Earlier this month, Hulu rival Netflix announced that its "Basic" tier for SD streaming will be priced at $9, up from $8, while its "Standard" HD tier will rise in price from $11 to $13 per month.

Netflix's "Premium" tier, which allows subscribers to access 4K video, will go up from $14 per month to $16 per month. Netflix's pricing changes went into effect on January 15 for new subscribers, while existing subscribers will see price increases over the next three months.

Tag: Hulu

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Upcoming Hulu App Interface Changes Aim to Simplify Navigation and Aid Discoverability

Hulu is about to update its streaming app to make it easier to navigate and discover new content, according to TechCrunch.


The big change coming in the next few weeks will be to the Hulu Lineup screen that users see when the app is launched.

Hulu wants to trial two different variations to see which one has the most engagement: a "Hulu Picks" collection that will be curated by staff, and an "Unwatched in My Stuff" option that will show users things in their list that they've yet to watch.


Hulu told TechCrunch it will test both options with a portion of users in the coming weeks in order to determine which one sees the best response.

Elsewhere, other upcoming changes will include enabling users to view content while they search the thumbnail interface for something to watch.

Subscribers can also expect a larger, more prominent "Details" button on content within collections like Kids, News, and Sports. More metadata will be available, too, including things like genre, rating, and release year.


In addition, the Details button is set to feature quick user actions such as playing the next episode in a series, adding items to "My Stuff," and other show-specific settings.

When browsing the Live TV channel guide, users will be able to view two weeks ahead, rather than just what's on now and next. In general, users will also see a refreshed palette for the interface, including background artwork and movie posters.

Tag: Hulu

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Hulu and AT&T to Test ‘Pause Ads’ in 2019, Automatically Playing Commercials When You Hit Pause

Streaming TV services offered by companies like Hulu and AT&T are testing the waters for a new type of advertising called "pause ads" (via Variety). The idea behind pause ads is that instead of facing forced commercial breaks at specified interludes, users would be more accepting of ads that play when they choose to pause a show for a bit while they do something else.

Hulu says it plans to launch pause ads in 2019, but not much else was given in the way of details regarding which of its numerous streaming plans will include the new type of commercial. The plan likely to see pause ads is Hulu With Limited Commercials, which interjects a few ads throughout a show's runtime, similar to live TV, but again this hasn't been confirmed.


AT&T cited similar interest in pause ads, stating that it also plans to launch technology in 2019 that plays a video when a user pauses a TV show. For both companies, it's unclear exactly how long these ads will run for, and if you'll be able to immediately cancel them out by simply hitting the play button and resuming your TV show.

According to Hulu vice president and head of advertising platforms Jeremy Helfand, pause ads will not be home to longform advertisements, but will instead focus on commercials where advertisers "have seconds" to deliver a message effectively. Over the next three years, Hulu expects "more than half" of its advertising revenue to come from these so-called non-disruptive experiences.

AT&T advertising vice president Matt Van Houten claims that the company is even working on a version of pause ads that will be interactive, so that viewers can "telescope" to more information from the advertiser by clicking on a remote. AT&T knows that viewers will raise concerns over the new type of advertising, but Van Houten claimed that they are just the next iteration of the "flying toaster" screensaver found on Macintosh computers in the late 80's.

Hulu on pause ads:
“As binge-viewing happens more and more, it’s natural they are going to want to pause,” says Jeremy Helfand, vice president and head of advertising platforms for Hulu, speaking of modern-day couch potatoes. Hulu intends to unveil what it calls “pause ads” in 2019. When a user chooses to stretch, or get a snack, he says, “it’s a natural break in the storytelling experience.”
AT&T:
“We know you’re going to capture 100% viewability when they pause and unpause,” says Matt Van Houten, vice president of product at Xandr Media, AT&T’s advertising division. “There’s a lot of value in that experience.”

In time, he suggests, consumers might prefer the pause pitches to other forms of TV commercials.
Some advertising executives are already unsure if pause ads will catch on. Tim Halon, CEO of media and advertising consultancy company Vetere Group, questions whether pause ads will be too disruptive: "Just because you can doesn't mean you should...if it's simply inserting, let's say a reverse-mortgage ad with a direct-response phone number? I don't know if that aids the consumer experience."

When it comes to advertising, many companies have had to walk a fine line in the past, particularly for streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. Earlier this year, Netflix tested a new feature that added video promotions for shows in between episodes, but users quickly pointed out their frustrations with the test and it never rolled out wide. Netflix executives still claim that there is not currently a plan to run traditional commercial advertisements on its service.

Although details about its service are still sparse, Apple is rumored to offer its upcoming TV shows free to Apple device owners through its TV app, and commercials are not expected to be a part of the experience.

Tags: AT&T, Hulu

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Hulu Gains Support for Night Mode on the Web

Starting today, when watching Hulu through the Hulu website, Hulu users will be able to use a new Night Mode feature that turns the interface a dark shade.

Hulu's new Night Mode options come just ahead of Halloween and are ideal for the streaming service's Halloween-related content, and it's also a feature that matches well with the Dark Mode introduced in Apple's macOS Mojave update.


According to Hulu, the Night Mode feature can cut down on eye strain and glare when watching content on a desktop machine via a browser.

Hulu subscribers can enable Night Mode by clicking on their profile icon at the top of the website and selecting the new "Night Mode" option from the dropdown menu.

Night Mode is rolling out today and while it's not yet available for all users on the desktop, it should be coming soon.

Tag: Hulu

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Hulu Updates Website With New Design, Picture-in-Picture Browsing, and More

Hulu today is rolling out a new update for Hulu.com, bringing it in line with the design and user interface that users should be familiar with if they use Hulu on smartphones and TVs, like iOS and tvOS. The company is launching the new update to coincide with fall television premieres, which typically kick off around this time, in mid to late September.


The company says that subscribers can expect all of the usual options they need on Hulu.com, including Playback, Show Details, Add to My Stuff, Recording, and Stop Suggesting all featured in the Home section. When watching a video, navigational controls will allow you to skip ahead to the next episode by clicking an "Up Next" button.

The main change is that Hulu.com no longer has a "Watchlist" and now supports the service's new "My Stuff" feature, which is where you can add shows to watch later. When in My Stuff, it's easier to track all of the shows you're watching, and Hulu will notify you when new episodes of a show are added. On Hulu.com's new splash screen, the company notes that you can sync all of your existing My Stuff shows to the new Hulu.com using a sync option in account settings.


For sports fans using Hulu with Live TV, you can watch multiple games on multiple windows on Hulu.com, and a basic picture-in-picture feature is also supported for other programs. This way, you can keep watching a show while browsing other parts of Hulu on the web, and the small player can be moved anywhere on the screen while multitasking.

Hulu explains that some Hulu with Live TV subscribers have had these updates on the web for a while, and the company has taken feedback from these users for the public launch:
Some of you may be familiar with the new look and feel of Hulu.com. We launched an early version of the new experience just over a year ago to provide our Hulu with Live TV viewers access to all the big games and live TV coverage from their browsers. Since then, we’ve continued to evolve and refine the new Web experience to incorporate user feedback and new, compelling features, updates and configurations that make the most out of the wide range of motion you have with your mouse and how quickly you’re able to point and click.
Hulu first began rolling out its new experience and updated UI in May 2017, launching first on Apple TV, iOS, Xbox One, Android, and Chromecast. The new Hulu design on these apps -- now on Hulu.com -- includes large pieces of artwork for each show, a curated home screen of show suggestions, and more.

Tag: Hulu

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Spotify and Hulu Update Student Deal to Include Showtime, All Bundled for $4.99/Month

Spotify and Hulu are further sweetening their student subscription offer by adding a monthly Showtime subscription into the mix, pricing everything at $0.99 for the first three months and $4.99 per month after (via The Verge). This means that eligible college students can get a Spotify Premium subscription ($9.99/month), Hulu With Limited Commercials subscription ($7.99/month), and a Showtime subscription ($10.99/month) for $4.99 per month.

The updated student subscription is available beginning today and is open only to higher education students above the age of 18 who haven't already tried Spotify Premium. The offer will be live for just over one month, expiring on October 9, 2018. To verify your status as a student, Spotify uses a third party service called SheerID.


With the deal, users will be granted access to Showtime via Hulu's in-app premium network add-on feature. Of course, customers can also use their Hulu log-in information to gain access to the separate Showtime Anytime app on devices like iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. For more information about the new student plan, check out Spotify's page right here.

Spotify chief premium business officer told The Verge that its Hulu partnership has been "an overwhelming success."
“We’re always trying to find creative solutions to add value back to our premium customers, especially via partnerships, and our focus is on the long-term relationship with each subscriber. If we do the right thing, they reward us with loyalty.”

For Showtime, the move provides an excellent way to get in front of — and attempt to lock in — the next generation of potential premium cable subscribers. “We had to figure out ways to get into a place where kids could stream us easily,” Showtime COO Tom Christie tells The Verge. “There’s no other brand out there today that’s been more successful in setting up streaming business on campus than Spotify”
Spotify and Hulu originally partnered for a student plan back in September 2017, offering access to Spotify Premium and Hulu With Limited Commercials at $4.99 per month. Due to its popularity, the companies then expanded to offer a similar plan to all users in April 2018 at a price point of $12.99 per month. Showtime says it is "having conversations" about potentially joining the non-student bundle as well.


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